Girls Have Game(s): A Chat With HelloGiggles’ Own Michele Morrow

With the feverish festivities of San Diego Comic Con well gone and the eve of its New York successor looming, geeks everywhere are on the hunt for something to hold them over. Activities like cosplay work, recovering from GISHWHES, crying over Breaking Bad and arguing over how terribly the new Star Wars movies were butchered have proven to be the most popular bets, with crowd favorite, Gaming, in the lead. What’s that, you say? The last video game you played was Diddy Kong Racing? The only thing you remember about tabletop games was that time your best friend kicked you to the Licorice Castle in Candy Land (and you’re still bitter about it)? Well, have a seat and I’ll regale you with all the up-to-date news on which games to invest in (and more importantly, which ones to hold off on) and how to handle the sea of angry trolls lurking beneath the still waters of gameland.

To kick off this two-part invention, I had the opportunity to chat with HelloGiggles’ very own gamer-extraordinaire and queen geek, Michele Morrow. Known to the rest of nerd culture as the Lady Sylvanas and the co-creator of FortPlay on the Skydart YouTube channel, Michele has spent the last handful of years establishing herself as a scream-queen actor and vlogging personality, making appearances and hosting shows on notable outlets such as Bite Sized TV’s Chicks With Joysticks and writing regular columns for Nerdist. She serves as resident gaming expert and fan of all things nerdy here on HelloGiggles, so who better to convince you to update your console than the Duchess of High Geekery herself?

Hi, Michele– let’s start off with something simple. Why do you think gaming is such a big part of Geek Culture?

Michele: Gaming is immersive!  They each govern their own imaginative, expansive worlds.  Challenge, escape, role-play, social interaction…. we can dive into the lore, go for achievements, or play quick matches.   Some people are inspired by it, and for some people it’s a lifestyle.

What do you think it is about gaming in general that makes so many women afraid to jump into it?

M: Marketing.  One of my first articles on HelloGiggles, “Your Princess Is No Longer In Another Castle”, goes pretty deep into it.  In the beginning, it was simply new tech.  But then, of course, it had to be promoted. Video games were getting more “mature”, so the industry needed to branch outside their original family demographic.  They stopped casting girls in video game commercials almost entirely and started branding toward the male audience. I witnessed this growing up.  It’s an old stigma, but to be honest, we’ve broken through a lot of it [recently].

Still, it can be tough for females to break into gaming without a slew of sexist or lewd comments being thrown their way. How do you recommend women handle this?

M: It depends.  I have lots of friends who’ve dealt with the internet’s wrath and it sucks. If your dream is to be a gaming personality, your first rule is: don’t feed the trolls.  Taking anonymous comments to heart on the internet leads to tears and/or frustration – so do not respond unless absolutely necessary.  If the comments seriously bother you as a person and the way you’re able to function, then just delete or ban that person.  Someone else may tell you not to delete the trolls, but I just think… why give them your forum to spread their hate?  If you have a strong passion, don’t ever let others poison your creative space.

So what sparked your own fascination with gaming?

M: Call me a weirdo, but my fascination with gaming started with rules.  Whenever you play any game – even hide and go seek – you accept a set of rules.  When I was growing up, video game technology was still fairly new, so being able to play a game with a machine was kind of mind-blowing.  Legend of Zelda, Tetris, Myst, Ms. Pac-Man, Jumpman, Metroid… these games challenged me and broadened my imagination.  They felt like interactive books.

More recently, tabletop games (D&D, Ticket to Ride, etc.) have started to steal the spotlight; which tabletop games would you recommend to newbies? Are there any to avoid or is it mostly “play whatever grabs your attention”?

M: Definitely play whatever grabs your attention!  Try new things. Cards Against Humanity and Munchkin are usually a good starting point if you’re a total newbie to tabletop.

I can’t believe I still haven’t played Cards Against Humanity! Definitely on my “to-play” list now. Alright, Michele. Confession time: have you always considered yourself a geek or is it something you grew into?

M: Growing up, I didn’t identify with being a geek because I didn’t really understand what made anyone cool or geeky–I knew there were kids I liked, and kids I didn’t like.  And then there were the kids I wish liked me back.  I suppose I was awkward.  Somehow I got voted “Teacher’s Pet” in high school, which never made sense to me.  It seemed like a default award, something that didn’t really fit me.  Some people can relate: I was in the middle – the purgatory of not belonging to any clique.  It’s a weird area.  It’s being accepted and not accepted all at once.  The benefit is being able to float around and create strong connections with various friends from all walks of life with totally different perspectives.  Interests are interests, and anyone passionately involved in those interests is some kind of nerd, no matter the subject.

Being a nerd, it seems, has never been cooler…. What’s one thing about the growing popularity of Geek Culture that worries you?

M: Sometimes I’m concerned, because being a nerd is starting to become this snowball of cult interest.  Like… it’s fine line between being a nerd and a hipster.  It’s almost as if all nerds expect you to subscribe to their definition of what “nerd” means.  All the Whovians, Whedonites, manga fans, gamers, comic book aficionados, lit majors, cinefiles, and everyone else under this massive nerd umbrella need to  understand that they need to chill a little bit on the nerd shaming.  Nerd shaming happens when one person is less informed on a popular geeky subject than the other and calls them out for it.  I don’t know if people think they need some kind of validation (or pay back) from the way they were treated at a younger age by younger trolls, but just because someone hasn’t seen the latest ‘Game of Thrones’ doesn’t mean they’re less of a nerd than another.

If someone hasn’t seen [something], introduce them to it.  Maybe they’re just getting into it, and they’re shy about it.  You don’t need to spread your nerd cred all over them!  If we’re too busy feeling like cool kids because we’re more awesome for “reading the books 5 years ago”, then we’re missing out on the power of sharing interests.  Don’t become geeky, self-absorbed, culture gatekeepers!

You have a few shows in the works and a current web series with Chloe Dykstra. What’s coming up in your schedule that we should keep an eye out for?

M: There’s a lot to be excited for. Right now I’m having a crapload of fun with Chloe, making crazy adventures on our new show ‘FortPlay’ which airs on on the Skydart channel in alliance with Nerdist.   Basically it’s about three girls who play video games in a fort, always in non-sexy pajamas.  I host a bi-weekly app review show called ‘App Attack’ on BiteSize TV, along with a few other shows on the network, ‘Chicks with Joysticks’ and ‘Like the First Time’.  I also have a ‘Mythbuster’-ish type show about “life-hacks” coming out called ‘Cracking the Hack’ with the awesome Marisha Ray.  Coincidentally, myself, Marisha and Chloe all star in the new web-series, ‘Pen & Paper & Laser Guns’ (‘PPLG’) about a group of friends inside a sci-fi tabletop game.  Filming ‘PPLG’ may have been my favorite gig so far this year, because we filmed some of our sci-fi scenes on parts of Serenity (the transport vessel on Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’).  Bonus Achievement: It was my birthday, and everyone surprise sang to me on the ship during one of my takes!

It seems we have a lot to look forward to! Thanks for taking time out of your crazy (awesome) schedule to chat with us. Nerdy girls and newbie gamers everywhere, take note!

M: Thanks!

You can join Michele’s Facebook Army or find her on twitter at @MicheleMorrow